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Alex Goligoski is feeling energized. Energized by the fans at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. Energized by the upcoming playoffs in which his team has a legitimate shot at a deep postseason run. Energized by the daily buzz he gets from friends and family in his home state. Energized by a two-year, $4 million contract extension that will keep him in a Minnesota Wild jersey, and on the team’s payroll until a month before his 39th birthday.
So is this it? Is this the final stretch for the 15-year pro who has also made stops in Pittsburgh, Dallas and Arizona, and is just six games shy of 1,000 games played? Will that two-year extension be his last NHL contract?
“Who knows?” he said by phone on Friday. “I’m not putting any hard dates on anything. I still feel good. I know I’m getting older and you don’t see a lot of old guys around the league anymore (laughs), but I’ve been lucky throughout my career to avoid any real big injuries so we’ll see. I’m not even really thinking about that, but if that’s the case, if that’s the end, it would have been a good career.
“Again, hopefully, there’s more to it.”
As the Wild prepared to host the Coyotes on Tuesday before launching their Cup chase as the likely No. 2 seed in the Central Division, I caught up with Goligoski for a quick Q&A.
Has the buzz of playing in your home state worn off or are you still soaking that in?
“It’s been great to have family and friends around and have that familiarity, especially going to a new team, but it just feels kind of normal at this point. It doesn’t seem like as big of a deal anymore. It’s just playing hockey and going out there and trying to figure out ways to win, getting through the grind of the season with all the guys, trying to find ourselves and trying to get better. It kind of feels like any other year at this point.”
With the team playing well (NHL’s fifth-best record), what’s the city’s vibe?
“Even guys that have been here for a long time are blown away by it. Our crowds and our fans have been unbelievable this year in this building. I’ve never seen the Xcel rock like it has been really all year. We’ve been great at home all year (29-7-2), which has really helped but the fans have really kind of driven us. The buzz for hockey right now here is big. We’ve put ourselves in a position where fans are excited about it and we are, too, so I’m just really looking forward to getting the playoffs going and seeing how far we can take this thing because I think we have the team that could do it.”
How do you evaluate your own season (30 points in 70 games)?
“I’ve enjoyed every second. Your focus is just going out and finding ways to win in whatever role you’re going to play. For me, it’s been a huge success. I think it’s been a great year.”
Did being out of the lineup for a stretch as a healthy scratch help you refresh and refocus?
“I think it can. You ask any player, they’re never gonna want to come out of the lineup. At the same time, realistically, it’s a long season, it’s a grind, and if you get a little break, take advantage of it. I feel awesome on the ice right now. Knock on wood, I hope to stay healthy and keep that energy going into the playoffs.”
Did you expect the extension talks and how does the contract impact your outlook?
“A couple of weeks before it ended up being finalized, I think there was a little bit of back and forth between the GM (Bill Guerin) and my agent (Ben Hankinson), but it came together pretty quick. Both sides were interested in doing the same thing. For me, it’s great to just know I’m gonna be here and be part of this great group moving forward. Now I don’t have to really think about what’s to come and I can just go out there and it’s easy to focus on the present. It’s an awesome feeling.”
I’m sure you want to play as much as possible, but will you accept whatever role you’re given over the final two years?
“As you get older, it really is just about trying to figure out a way to win. Everyone obviously always wants to play as much as they can, but if there’s other options, or you’re not going, or you need rest, or whatever it may be, it’s all good. You’ve got to do what’s best for the team and I’m more than willing to do whatever that is.
“Just the idea of being here, it’s such a full-circle thing for me and my family. The team is so good and there are such good people in this organization. It’s where I wanted to be and the thought of staying here and winning here is really exciting.”